Student Organization: EcoSSIStem
Start/End date: 2018 (ended)
Description: The EcoSSIStem Club has been trying to resolve an ongoing battle at SSIS that -- some say -- has lasted up to ten years. That problem is the incredible amount of plastic waste we produce from our smoothies.
Purpose/Mission: To reduce the heavy usage of plastic produced from smoothies in school and to additionally help to reduce the incredible amount of plastic waste in Ho Chi Minh.
What we have noticed:
Fun Fruit World (FFW) is a widely and deeply loved vendor that has been serving at our school for years. However, through our research, we discovered we consume 100 plastic cups per day, which amounts to a shocking 18,000 plastic cups per school year. And that's not even counting the plastic sports drinks, water bottles, and food packaging sold at our cafeteria.
What did we do in order to solve this issue:
We set off with our team of six: Catherine (team coordinator), Thanh, Hae Ree, Gia Bao, Divina, and myself. Together, we had countless discussions, many of which would run overtime and, sometimes, in circles due to the complexity of the issue.
We had to consider:
the willingness of students to invest the extra effort
plastic taxes and discounts (that don't affect FFW profit)
extra labor/costs for FFW
hygiene and food safety
the quantifiable carbon reduction in encouraging harder plastics (reusable) over single use
revenue gained by cleaning staff rom selling our plastic waste
After discussing a variety of options, we decided to conduct a survey to make a more informed decision on some of these factors.
We took a 'High School Body Survey' in order to seek through the problem..
Of our school of 300 students, we received 100 responses from a mix of students, teachers, and staff. Here were the two most insightful questions.
At the end, we asked if there was anything else we should know. Here were some of the responses:
"Maybe charge the student more if they use the plastic
cups or reduce the price of the smoothies if they bring
their own re-usable cup."
"If we use our own bottles with different shapes and sizes,
is the amount we receive gonna be the same?"
"1. The way to insert smoothies inside the cup
2.The way to carry it around as it is hard to put it in bag (spill or may break)
3.Would be somehow hard for some people who always forgets as they have to purchase reusable plastic cup whenever they lose them....
Great Idea for reducing plastic wastes."
"Thinking about making people's life easier as a factor as well. If something you purpose will be really difficult for people to adapt, it wouldn't be effective to some extend"
"It would be nice if we have a machine that sterilizes and washes the cups. Also, it would be nice to personalize our own cups. Then, people might
prefer reusable cups over disposable cups."
"I think the idea of using reusable cup doesn't really work because it is very inconvenient but at the same time I think we should have bottles that could be recycle like bottles they used for soft drinks (coke, etc). By doing that, after using the bottle, we could put it in the recycle bin and reuse it for other purposes."
There were so many ideas being offered, but the first thing we saw was that the biggest obstacle for consumers was remembering to bring the cup and convenience. Therefore, the best option would be to have the cups be part of the cafeteria system. Like a lunch plate, smoothie-drinkers would also need to return their cups to the cafeteria for washing.
This then brought up three main concerns:
Consumer restrictions = students can't move as freely with smoothies, might affect willingness to cooperate
Collecting the cups / straws = how to ensure all items are collected, on time for washing?
Washing the cups = more labor for The Caterers / Fun Fruit World
Reflection/Next Steps: With this new insight, we decided it was time to meet with Fun Fruit World. Their support and willingness to adopt our initiative were ultimately going to be the deciding factors in how we design our solution.
Read about our meeting with FFW, our solutions, and carrying out the initiative in our next post!